The committee will be launching an inquiry into the Home Office, after the Upper Tribunal condemned the government department for deporting thousands of international students in response to the allegations of cheating in some ETS test centres in 2014.
“It is extraordinary that the Home Office has carried out no independent investigation itself”
In a report released last week, the Home Affairs Committee said: “We want to be satisfied that the Home Office’s actions are proportionate and just,” and pointed to the fact that the Home Office made its decision to deport thousands of students based purely on evidence from ETS itself.
“It is extraordinary that the Home Office has carried out no independent investigation itself of the allegations of fraud in relation to English language testing and instead has relied on evidence from ETS, one of its approved providers and a party under criminal investigation,” the report said.
At the end of March, a tribunal found that the Home Office did not adequately prove that the thousands of international students who were deported had cheated on their ETS test.
The allegations originally emerged after a BBC Panorama documentary exposed that cheating took place at an ETS test centre in London.
However, the Home Office was unable to tell the committee how many of the tests were related to those not applying for a Tier 4 visa, how many cases were currently before a tribunal, or how many tests were said to be valid, which was described in the report as “unacceptable”.
“We find it deeply concerning that the Home Office was unable to provide this information given the gravity of this matter and the number of people affected,” it said.
The Home Affairs Committee also received evidence that test-takers were only told why their visas were revoked after “extensive requests for information”, without the chance to review or contest the information against them.
“It is clear that, if the problem of fraud in English language testing is not handled properly, the UK risks causing extensive damage to its reputation as a leading destination for international study, not to mention the emotional and financial cost to the individuals affected,” the report said.
As a starting point to the inquiry, the committee has called on the Home Office to set out the process for out-of-country appeals, the steps taken to ensure a fair hearing, as well as whether this will include giving appellants access to the evidence against them.
To see how the events leading up to the inquiry have unfolded, see our timeline here.